AFI Officially Opens 2016 Global Policy Forum in Fiji

  • Reserve Bank of Fiji Governor Barry Whiteside delivers his welcoming remarks at the 2016 Global Policy Forum in Nadi, Fiji, on 8 September 2016.
    Reserve Bank of Fiji Governor Barry Whiteside delivers his welcoming remarks at the 2016 Global Policy Forum in Nadi, Fiji, on 8 September 2016.
Reserve Bank of Fiji Governor Barry Whiteside delivers his welcoming remarks at the 2016 Global Policy Forum in Nadi, Fiji, on 8 September 2016.

Alliance for Financial Inclusion Officially Opens 2016 Global Policy Forum in Fiji

2016-09-08

The 2016 Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) Global Policy Forum (GPF) opened in Nadi with a traditional Fijian welcome ceremony, setting the stage for two days of sharing and open dialogue to promote financial inclusion.

On behalf of the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF), Governor Barry Whiteside said he was deeply honored to co-host the eighth annual GPF and welcomed guests and participants to the first gathering of AFI in the South Pacific. He extended a special welcome to fellow Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (PIRI) members, which have been working together in a spirit of “collaboration, cooperation and passion” to drive financial inclusion across the Pacific Islands. “Although we are spread east to west over 7,000 km of ocean, our knowledge sharing and bond grows stronger over time.”

Governor Benno Ndulu of the Bank of Tanzania (BOT) and Chair of the AFI Board, and Alfred Hannig, Executive Director of AFI, also addressed participants, highlighting three important milestones to be celebrated this year: the largest GPF to date, the first to be held since AFI’s independence, and the five-year anniversary of the Maya Declaration. They also pointed out that financial inclusion has moved quickly up the global agenda and smart policies and regulations in AFI member countries will have a big impact on the new UN Sustainable Development Goals. “Financial inclusion,” Governor Ndulu said, “is a cross-cutting issue with the potential to make an impact on the lives of billions.”

GPF participants were then addressed via a video message by Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), who applauded AFI members as a unique force in the movement for financial inclusion, singling out those who have begun to look at their data through the lens of gender and are working to close the gender gap in financial access. “Economies that include everyone,” she said, “benefit everyone.”

Finally, the Honorable Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, Rear Admiral (Retired) Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, welcomed GPF participants to Denarau on behalf of every Fijian, and saluted them for working to empower the 2 billion worldwide currently excluded from the financial system. As the Reserve Bank of Fiji’s champion for financial inclusion, Prime Minister Bainimarama told the story of Fiji’s financial inclusion journey and the critical role RBF assumes in ensuring that financial services, including credit, insurance, and electronic transactions, are made more accessible to poor customers.

Guided by a green growth framework, a 20-year sustainable development plan, and a new constitution that guarantees a range of social and economic rights, the government is committed to bringing more people into the mainstream financial system and building a more secure financial future for its people, especially those most affected by climate change.

As an island nation, climate change is a critical issue for Fiji. Some low-lying communities have already been relocated, and the destruction wrought by Cyclone Winston in February 2016 showed just how vulnerable the poor, unbanked and uninsured are when natural disasters strike. One way the government responded was with the Help for Homes Initiative, which provided individuals with an ATM card to purchase what they needed to restock and rebuild their homes, which simultaneously helped them to become more comfortable using digital financial services.

Fiji continues to set ambitious financial inclusion goals. Its target for 2020 is to increase access to financial services from 65% of all adults to 85%, with women accounting for 50% of this number. With a second five-year national strategy for financial inclusion underway, the announcement of new Maya Declaration Commitments planned for the GPF, and gender equality high on the agenda, Fiji’s financial inclusion journey is a model in the region and the world. As Prime Minister Bainimarama said, “We are determined to leave not one behind in our journey as a nation. An inclusive society can only be achieved when there is an appropriate national framework in place.”

Following the Prime Minister’s remarks, in keeping with tradition, the GPF was officially opened with the ringing of the ceremonial gong that welcomed all participants to the GPF.